Not a ‘joiner’? It’s time to become one, because being part of a social group keeps you alive longer!
Aussie researchers followed a group of Brits in their first six years of retirement, all of whom were members of two leisure groups at the time they finished work.
It didn’t matter what kind of social group – they ranged from book clubs and sports teams to bible study groups and trade unions – as long as the person saw the group as an important part of their identity.
The retirees that stuck with their two groups for the six years had just a 2 percent risk of death in that period. Those that dropped one group saw their risk rise to 5 percent. The mortality risk for the ones that left both groups jumped to 12 percent.
In short, being part of a social group was associated with a lower risk of premature death. What’s more, the socialites reported a higher quality of life than those that gave up their associations.
The researchers say their findings show that that social planning should get the same emphasis as financial planning ahead of retirement.
Some retirees are already aware of the importance of maintaining social connections post-working life, and pick a retirement village lifestyle because it offers easy access to a big range of activities and groups.
According to the Property Council of Australia, exercise classes, crafts, cards and games, sports such as bowls and table tennis, and hobby groups are standard fare at most retirement villages, as are social events including happy hours and shopping trips.
Other villages offer even more, with gyms, workshops, tennis courts, golf courses, technology hubs, as well as regular high-end social events such as race days and ladies lunches.
Julie Ramage, an assistant village manager at the Forresters Beach Retirement Village on the Central Coast of New South Wales, says the community’s social calendar and range of organised activities is key for most potential purchasers.
“It’s one of the really big questions we get during our interview process,” she says.
The Forresters Beach village has about 20 activities running every week, ranging from Zumba classes and a model-boat hobby club to a mah-jong group so popular it has 30 members and a waiting list of wannabe players.
“It’s one of the most vital things we have here, because for a lot of people, going to an activity can be the start of wonderful friendships,” Ramage says of the village’s organised group engagements.
“And it’s less intimidating to turn up to a new group or activity when you know it’s going to be with people around your own age and with similar interests.”
As well as the activities organised by the village itself, the residents’ social committee runs regular high teas, movie-and-pizza nights, cocktail evenings and more.
Residents pay for some of the activities, such as exercise classes conducted by external instructors, while many of the groups charge only a nominal $1 or $2 per meeting to cover refreshments.
In fact, the social and activities calendar at Forresters Beach is so busy, social committee member Louise Arndt created an app-based calendar to help residents keep track of the multitude of offerings via their smartphones.
Arndt says the calendar on the Teamup app meant that staff and club members could coordinate meeting places, dates and times without doubling up. She also maintains a paper-based version for the non-techies at the village.
“It’d be nice if everyone did become computer literate but you have to be realistic – that’s not going to happen,” Arndt says jokingly.
She says that the village social life was key to creating bonds that went far beyond just socialising.
“It’s a great community, we have great neighbours and it’s a far more involved community than you’d find normally in a suburban neighbourhood,” Arndt says.
“If something happens to someone here, like becoming ill, there’s so much support for them, whereas elsewhere people wouldn’t even know it’s happened.”
And if you really are a dedicated non-joiner? Ramage emphasises that villages put no pressure on residents to participate in group activities or social events.
“People can join in as much or as little as they like,” she explains. “Some residents have very busy lives outside the village so they just don’t have the time to do too much!”
Has your social life ramped up or slowed down since you retired? Would you be open to new activities?